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By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong’s growing love affair with Colorado could result in the return of big-time stage racing to the central Rockies by 2011.
Armstrong has been in discussions with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter for the past few months to explore the possibility of creating a stage race that would hearken back to the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, when Colorado boasted the Red Zinger and the Coors Classic.
Armstrong met with the governor Saturday for two hours over lunch to continue the dialogue.
“Lance and the governor have had several conversations about their shared desire to bring a staged competitive race back to Colorado,” Evan Dreyer, spokesman for Ritter, told David O. Williams, of The Colorado Independent. “People keep talking about a revival of something that looks like the old Celestial (Red Zinger) or the old Coors Classic.”
The discussions are just in the preliminary stages and there’s is no talk of a sponsor yet, but both Armstrong and Ritter are committed to trying to organize a major stage race in Colorado.
Ritter and Armstrong first met this spring when the two began discussing their love of cycling and their memories of the Coors Classic, which ran from 1979 to 1988.
Ritter is a committed cyclist and has ridden such events as the Triple Bypass and rides up to four days a week, according to Dreyer.
Armstrong recently purchased a home in Aspen and trained there in the weeks before his Tour de France comeback in July. He’s currently back in Colorado and preparing for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race.
Dreyer said both are committed to trying to find a way to bring back major stage racing to Colorado, which was hugely popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
“They had initially talked about doing it as early as 2010, but it looks like now the earliest it could be would be 2011,” Dreyer said. “There are a couple of hurdles, obviously, funding and logistics. It’s a huge undertaking because of the number of jurisdictions that a race of this sort would traverse and go through, so you need State Patrol, you need local jurisdictions. And there are a lot of logistical details that would need to be worked out.”
The Red Zinger debuted in 1975 and quickly grew to become the Coors Classic in 1979. The race enjoyed huge support and became the most important stage race in U.S. cycling history until the recent arrival of the Tour of California.
Such riders as Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond and Davis Phinney won the tour until beer brewer Coors stepped out as sponsor in 1988.
Efforts to revive a Colorado stage race have sputtered over the years, but the latest effort by Armstrong and Ritter looks to have legs.
“There’s no bigger name in cycling right now,” Dreyer said. “To have a cyclist of Lance Armstrong’s caliber and the governor trying to figure out a way to make this happen lends instant credibility to the effort.”
Armstrong confirmed the efforts to VeloNews contributor Rupert Guinness during a phone interview at the 2009 Tour de France, saying a revival of the Coors Classic “has been a dream of mine for the past six months.”
“Basically, it would be a comeback of the Coors Classic,” Armstrong said. “I am not sure Coors would be the title sponsor, but I had several conversations with him (Ritter) and continue to do so about bringing it back and putting it in August and giving the peloton a good race to do in August.”
Armstrong said August would be an ideal date for the race, especially in light of expected changes in the UCI racing calendar to be introduced in 2011.
“Keeping in mind that in 2011 the Vuelta goes to April, and it’s two weeks, the worlds gets moved up to where it used to be. It gives the guys the opportunity for a couple of weeks at altitude,” Armstrong said. “Race for a week and then go to the worlds, it would be a great fit.”
Colorado cycling fans are certainly hoping so.
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